Part 3: Hiking Tactics-Mt. Moriah & Imp Campsite- HTW 2018

 

Mount Moriah

“Carter-Moriah trail follows a logging road up a steep bank, then winds moderately upward through second-growth woods past several brushy logged areas. The trail climbs steeply, enters the White Mountain National Forest, and continues up through hardwoods. At 2.0 mi., a ledge down affords good views, and the trail soon passes to the right of the insignificant summit of Mt. Surprise and its small flume.  From here, the trail descends slightly, and then ascends gradually at first, but soon becomes steeper as it climbs over a series of ledges that have excellent views west and north; the ledges are slippery when wet. The trail stays near the ridge top but winds from side to side through the woods, crossing one wet, muddy stretch with deteriorating bog bridges. The trail traverses several ups and downs over ledgy humps. At 4.5, after a steep climb, a spur path leads right 50 yd. to the ledgy summit of Mt. Moriah, which affords excellent views.” White Mountain Guide, AMC’s Comprehensive Guide to Hiking Trails in the White Mountain National Forest¹  (emphasis mine) 

It’s kind of obvious if you are going to climb a mountain and summit its peak, you need to go up. Yet, there are varying degrees of “upness” that should be noted. There’s a gentle pitch, moderate incline, or a steep climb. Often times, the logical side of my brain tries to persuade me that a gentle pitch is a much better, safer, way go up in altitude, but the adventurous side of my brain, disagrees arguing “Where’s the fun and challenge in that?” So a fight breaks out between the two sides of my brain whether or not to stay in my comfort zone or be pushed out of it. To bring an end to the disagreement and restore peace, I often use a tactic called avoidance. Avoidance in hiking looks a lot like choosing not to read the trail descriptions before I hike the trail. This way, the unknown serves as equal ground and those highlighted words (noted above in trail description) do not even get a chance to spark a battle in my mind.

Our day started early at 6:30AM. We were gifted with perfect sunny weather-warm but not hot, breezy but not windy. The AMC hiker shuttle dropped us off right at the trailhead. This was another gift because we thought we would have to walk roadside a couple of miles before we reached to the actual trail.

True to the above trail description, the start of the hike (and most of the day) was strenuous with steep climbing, rock scrambling, and ledge walking. There were several times when I felt my confidence falter and thought I should have trained more, the rocks were too steep, my pack was too heavy, and I didn’t think I could do it. Those thoughts and moments were fleeting as I felt a renewed strength from God and I used another tactic-positive encouragement- while I cheered myself on with phrases like “slow and steady,”” one step in front of the other,” “you can do it.”

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Along with the challenge of this trail comes great reward. The Carter-Moriah trail is absolutely beautiful and offers a good diversity of natural things to admire in the form of boulder sculptures, moss covered trees, scratchy treeline ledges, mushy bogs with bridges, and cute little, colorful mushrooms dotting the sides of the trail.

We hiked most of the morning, stopping here and there to catch our breath, continued up and over the “insignificant” summit of  Mt. Surprise (Δ 2194 ft), and then onto Mt. Moriah (Δ 4049 ft) for lunch. It was our first 4,000-footer “bagged” on this trip. At the summit, we were blessed with excellent views and new people to talk with.

We chatted with other hikers, met an AT-thru hiker named Silver, and was introduced to a captain of the White Mountain Search and Rescue Team. We asked her to share her best tips and she told us a few things she wished every hiker knew in terms of safety. Here are two of them:

1.) Have a map! Do not rely on technology- like cell phone or fancy GPS devices. She had seen many people getting lost even with the GPS devices because they did not know how to use them correctly. Again, always have a physical map!! (CHECK √ )

2.) Make sure you always have enough supplies that you could spend one night outside if you had to. This includes water, food, matches, warm layers, and a sleep sheet. I had everything she mentioned and more… 😉 (CHECK √) 

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To be on a mountain top humbles me. To witness the breathtaking, dramatic landscape from such a height makes me feel small, childlike, full of wonder. From the summit of Mt. Moriah, we could see the Mount Washington and the Presidential Range-where we hiked last year- and The Carter Range- where we were heading next. From our vantage point, those next mountains seemed so far away. Yet we would be close to North Carter by 5:00 PM. When we were near North Carter, we would start looking for a place to camp.

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This is a view from the summit of Mt. Moriah looking across to where we were heading. It seems so far away. Depth perception in the mountains is an interesting thing.

 

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Mt. Washington and the Presidential Range, where we hiked last year. Thanks Paul and Anne at Rock-Village.com for a great picture.

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Getting closer to North Carter

The trail to North Carter descends very steeply down the ledges of Mt. Moriah and then follows a ridge crest as it winds its way through the woods. Occasional ledge lookouts, with additional views, spur you on along the trail. Several more signs along the trail would be helpful so you could determine your location along the trail. At times, it was difficult to know how far we had come or how much further we had to go. We pressed on and made our way to Imp Campsite.

We were not planning to stay at Imp Campsite, but we wanted to check it out. I had never been to AMC Campsite before and I was pleasantly surprised. Imp has a beautiful shelter, tent platforms, composting toilet, and even a “living room” chair. Our thru-hiker friend, Silver, was there and staying the night.

 

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AMC’s Imp Campsite- and what I am calling “the living room chair”

After taking a good look around Imp, we got back on the trail. By this point, I was really starting to feel tired and was more and more ready to find a spot to rest and set up our site for the night. This was to be the first time either of us had camped trailside. Our good friends, Gazelle, Hero and Silver, had given us a few tips and we knew we needed to be below the tree line, 200 ft. from the trail, and should pitch our tent on a flat area (not on moss or leaves to avoid bugs and mites.) Onward we went, on the lookout for a perfect spot, up and over one more mountain, Imp Mountain (Δ 3720 ft), before we found the place. It was really to be a perfect spot, and we were excited about trying this new experience.

Using Imp Campsite as a model, we quickly designated a cooking spot, a bathroom spot, a bear bag area, and a sleeping area. We were about to realize the result of a not so perfect shakedown….

Read: Part 1: Unprepared (and a little thing called jet lag) HTW-2018

Part 2: Part 2: A Hero, a Gazelle and a Shake Down- HTW 2018

 

¹AMC Guide to Hiking the Trails in the White National Forest


Expectations-Hiking Trip-Chapter 3

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View from Mount Avalon (AMC Highland Center down in the valley)

“If you don’t like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes.”

-Mark Twain

The cloudy skies had deceived me. From the lodge’s window, their appearance had led me to believe the outside temperature was cool so I had dressed in layers. But after fifteen minutes of hiking it became clear I had overdressed and the temperature was not what I had expected. It was perfect. Not too warm, not too cool but I was hot, sticky and sweaty in my long-sleeve, layered shirt. The sweaty clothes were an added nuisance to my heightened awareness of the weight on my back. I questioned whether or not I should take off my pack and remove a layer but in the end decided against it. This began a constant struggle and debate I had with myself during the whole hiking trip. To add or remove a layer-that was the big question.

The Avalon Trail was pretty, well maintained and well marked. On the way to the summit we laughed and talked as we marched in a single line, one behind the other. Joyfully we stepped over slippery stones as we crossed over streams and waterways.

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Beecher Cascade

I cannot remember at what point the trail turned on us. Some time early in the day, while we were very joyful and happy, the trail went from something like this*:

 

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and turned into this:

(Please note, these pictures not do the trails justice. The depth and the grade are lost in these shots. These are challenging trails to conquer. They are filled with rocks, roots and many hidden places to trip and lose your footing.)

While scrambling up over the rocks and gracefully executing pas de bourrees over the slippery roots, I realized that I had expectations of this trip. Even though I had said over and over again how I did not want to know anything about what to expect or where we were going, I had unknowingly made my own conclusions. Conclusions that included a what a trail should look like, what the weather should be like and how much effort I would exert.

I laughed to myself at my own realizations. What had I expected? A mild, gentle graded trail? A waltz in the woods? We were hiking in the Granite State. The White Mountains! Hello! GRANITE. ROCKS. MOUNTAINS. There’s a specific reason why things are named the way they are. I had figured this would be a challenging hike but did not know just how challenging it would be. Oh, but to have this challenge made me happy and feel blessed to be alive. No guts, no glory. Right?

At the top of a rock pile, we made a steep climb, and final scramble over the boulders to the summit of Mount Avalon (elevation: 3,442 ft.) The view from Mt. Avalon is gorgeous. Some people say it is one of the best views of the Presidential Range from all the mountains at Crawford Notch. We paused for a few moments to take it all in. Our very first peak bagged.

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It’s funny how sometimes you can see things more clearly when you look back at them. When I look at this picture now, I can clearly see something I missed then. Dark, streaky rain clouds at the horizon. A turn of weather, earlier than we expected.

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Minutes after we left the summit small drops of rain began to fall. Just a few spits of raindrops at first but soon the rain became steady. There would be no chances of drying out now and it was getting cold too. We stopped to put on our rain gear and cover our packs with rain covers and ponchos. I still felt sweaty-cold from the morning and my hands were the starting to feel numb. I put on my winter hat and gloves trying to get as warm as possible. We had about five more hours of hiking ahead of us.

As we hiked, clouds continued to pour buckets and buckets of rain over our heads. The woods offered us no protection from the showers. The rain added an extra challenge to an already challenging trail. Mossy rocks became hazards and roots were sneaky and slick. Small streams started to form in between the rocks of the steep paths we walked. We tried to avoid stepping in puddles and mud but our efforts were in vain. Extra concentration was needed as we contemplated each step and where to hold our footing.

As wet and cold as were nobody complained. We cheered each other on. The rain did not snuff out our joy or extinguish our movement. We were women on a mission and bagged two more peaks. Two 4,000 footers. Mt. Tom (elevation: 4051 ft) and Mt. Field (elevation: 4340 ft) Here I realized that not all summits have beautiful views as (as I had expected.) Mt. Tom and Mt.Field had trees and cairns. I concluded that the view was not as important as the accomplishment and I was content in knowing we had safely reached each summit.

 

Some time toward the end of the day, the rain stopped (thank you, Jesus.) A trail sign with the hut’s name was a very happy, welcomed sight. I felt as if I was about to cross the finish line of a marathon. One last push and I would be done. I dreamed of a hot cup of coffee, dry warm clothes and regaining feeling in my fingers. I felt like I had been baptized by water and fire. My strength had been tested and I had persevered. It was a great feeling, a mixture of exhaustion, hard work and accomplishment. One last steep, rocky incline and I was about to find out that a night spent at the huts is the cherry on top of a day’s long hike…

PS-For those wondering about the practical side of things, using outdoor facilities is extra “fun” in the rain. Lots of stuff (rain gear) can get in the way and a bare bottom in the cold is a jolting experience. If you want to feel at one with nature, try going the bathroom on the side of the trail, in the freezing cold rain. I guarantee you will get the full experience Mother Nature has to offer.

*This is not a picture of a trail in the White Mountains but an accurate depiction of what I thought the trails might look like before I left for the trip.


WONDER-FULL WEDNESDAY- WONDERMENT- PART 1

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It has been days since I have returned from my hiking trip and I am still trying to process my time in the mountains. In the four days we were there, so much happened physically, emotionally and spiritually. It was a step back in time, a place away from the busyness of the world, a time filled with extreme gratitude and wonderment.

Wonderment is the best way I can describe the trip. The feeling or emotion sparked by curiosity, awe and surprising things. I hiked in wonderment as the strength of my mind and soul overtook the physical strength of my body, pushing it to new limits, building new confidence and holding tight to Jesus. I felt wonderment gazing at valleys and mountains and thinking about God and His Creation. I listened in wonderment to new hiker friends share their stories of mountainous accomplishments. Challenging, peaceful, life-changing, and fun are other words but really none of them best describes the time as wonderment.

The only thing I hated about this trip was my last step from the sanctuary of the shadowed woods into the bright, blinding sunlight of the trail head’s parking lot. A place where two worlds collide. As my eyes adjusted to the bright sunlight, I wished I could turn around and run back into the woods. I wanted to keep exploring, keep pushing my body, keep discovering new things and seeing what was around the next bend or over the next boulder. I think this might have been the exact moment of when my new hiking addiction started.

Before I get too carried away, I guess I should start at the beginning, at the trailhead. If you have been reading along, you know this was my very first hike longer than a day’s trip. Four days and three nights backpacking with a 20-25 lb pack through the White Mountains of New Hampshire. There were five women on this trip. Five women who are now bonded together by sweat, tears and great respect for each other and this shared experience. I will lovingly refer to them as Loving Leader, Hot Mama, Sweaty-Sweet Diva, and Courageous Jade.

Those are not their official trail names (more about that later.) I was the only one blessed to received an official trail name on this hike, complete with a ceremony and pledge. “Melon Ball” was given to me because of my bright melon-colored rain gear and my sweet, joyful, refreshing personality (or at least that’s what my friends told me.)

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Loving Leader was very smart to start our trip off on the right foot. We arrived at Crawford Notch’s AMC Highland Center Lodge in the early evening. A good meal and good night’s sleep was in order before we hit the trail in the morning. The lodge’s accommodations were warm and comfortable and the atmosphere was joyful and peaceful. Hikers coming and going, some fresh from new adventures and some anticipating great ones to come. These were luxury accommodations compared to the hut’s lodging complete with warm running water, towels, comfortable beds and bedding. The food was plenty, delicious and filling!

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Lupine

At sunset, the five of us walked around the lodge admiring the mountains and pretty wildflowers. In the serene setting, I found myself evaluating my current state. I was running on empty, high on adrenaline. A few hours earlier, I had left my house filled with visiting relatives. It had been about a month since our home was inhabited by only our family of five. It had been good to see everyone and I was glad everyone was able to come. But it had been tiring and emotional. I hate saying goodbyes and as much as I try not to think about it while my family is here, I always think of our time together as a countdown before I have to say goodbye again.

Besides all the company, various loved ones and life circumstances were weighing heavily on my heart and mind. I stood there facing the setting sun and started to breath. Deep breaths of fresh mountain air were met with exhales, releases of stress and control over unknown circumstances. The air and the views started to cleanse and prepare my heart for something bigger. I could feel God replace the heaviness with the lightness of joy, peace and new discovery. I felt myself leaning in to hear His voice on the wind and watch the majesty of trees and a mountains bow down at His feet. Standing there, I felt very small and it felt so good. So good to know the Almighty God, mighty and powerful enough to create the great mountains on His command, is the same Almighty God who is loving and kind enough to be gentle with the current state of my tired heart and soul.

In the depths of my heart, I felt his calling to take His hand. The Great Shepherd ready to lead me besides quiet waters and refresh my soul. (Psalm 23) The Creator calling me to “come and see” for He was about to guide me on a heart’s journey to see and experience greater things. When I lay my tired head down and closed my eyes on the first night, I knew this adventure would be much more than I could have ever imagined and I was right.

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Crawford Notch